A growing trend in wedding fashions continues to be a fascinating obsession with, and love for, times past. Along that line was the Medieval-themed wedding of Shannon Couture and Nicole Nolette, held at the Ski Esta in the Sunday River area. They selected this venue because the facility looks like a castle.

What is noteworthy about this wedding is that the bridal couple provided a unique experience for everyone attending the wedding while staying within their wedding budget. Besides sharing a love of history and being budget conscious, Nolette noted, “We both wanted our wedding to be unique. This was my second wedding; I previously had had a traditional white wedding.”

Nolette said Couture was very good with planning the unique wedding, sharing in all the ideas. “He had a big part in choosing the fabrics and all the music for the program.”

Medieval and Renaissance weddings are the “newest” old trends in weddings, with movies like “Ever After” and “Elizabeth” contributing to the resurgence in interest. These weddings have many people donning clothes they would not normally wear. While many Medieval weddings take this one step farther – to renting a costume instead of a tuxedo – the Coutures did as much as they could on their own, from creating the programs to the making of their wedding garments.

Nolette, who is skilled in sewing, made her Medieval dress as well as one for her daughter, Lea Jeanne Nolette, who was the Maid of Honor. She worked on these over the course of two weeks. Nolette’s dress had a rust-colored underdress, with a burgundy brocade-corseted top. Lea’s underdress was gold, with a brick-colored top. Material left over from the two dresses was used for vests for the groom and for her son, Neil, who was the Bride’s Squire. The bouquets and the boutonnieres were also homemade, as were the wax tart melts used for favors and the bar menu, which included homemade beer and mead. Couture took care of the music with the band called They Might Be Giants, which played the processional, “Another First Kiss.”

“Doing everything ourselves allowed us to control our budget. We forgot a couple of things, but it went very well. Afterward, people said they enjoyed being part of something that was very unique,” noted Nolette.

The Officiate was Joette Carlton, who wore a burgundy-colored cloak made by a friend for the occasion. While the wedding party was dressed according to a Victorian theme, they didn’t want to limit that to the 60 people attending.

“We wanted this to be timeless, not a time period. A romantic period like the Roaring ’20’s or the 50s,” said Nolette.

After the processional and welcoming words, the tying of the bride’s and groom’s hands was done by Nolette’s son and daughter, ages 10 and 13, respectively, followed by a short speech from each. This symbolized the binding of each to the other as well as the joining of both families.

Centuries ago, in many parts of Europe, handfasting was part of the betrothal and marriage ritual. Betrothal – the solemn exchange of vows of intention to marry – was as important as the marriage itself. Aspects of the ceremony once common in betrothal – such as the exchanging of rings or a formal kiss – later became part of the marriage service, as betrothal rituals fell out of favor. Next was the exchanging of rings and the vows written by the bride and groom.

Following the exchange and vows came the cakes and wine: sharing the food of love, with the wedding party. At the same time, the audience took part in this act, with wine and mini muffins with cream cheese for everyone. Today’s tiered wedding cakes evolved from tall stacks of tiny guest cakes stuck together with honey. The couple would kiss over the top of the stack, then feed each other a cake. This was meant to symbolize that the couple would be able to nurture and sustain each other, both physically and emotionally. The guests would then each take one of the cakes, showing that the couple was a part of their community. Modern weddings have moved this ritual out of the marriage ceremony and made it part of the reception.

Medieval weddings are generally held outdoors or in a traditional church. Traditional Medieval decor includes banners, heavy wooden chairs, grapevine wreaths, English ivy, votive candles set in gold holders, and white flowers. If you want your ceremony in a church, try to find one that looks Gothic – made of stone, with lots of stained glass, and possibly some Tudor (brown and ivory) wooden accents.

For an outdoor wedding, decorate the space with plenty of ivy, which is the traditional wedding plant of the Medieval era, black iron candelabras and scrolls, banners of family crests, large baskets of flowers, and flowered garlands on wooden and/or iron poles. Big, chunky wooden candleholders are also appropriate and add the requisite flavor to the scene.

Another location option is to get married at a local or regional Renaissance Fair. Often, the wedding parties just show up, and the Fair takes care of the rest. The feasibility of this option, however, depends on both the size of the Fair and the size of the wedding; it is much easier to have your wedding at the Fair if you are having a smaller ceremony. In the United States, nearly every state has such a Fair, and it is
becoming more common to see weddings take place at them. Usually a
hospitality coordinator is in charge of arranging such an event, and
then most all of the hard work is done for you.

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